Set in a small-town, sub-Arctic dive bar, this debut poetry collection explores the complexities of addiction and the person beneath, and the possibility of finding home and community in unexpected places. Among Borin’s poems are portraits of the bar’s regular customers and employees—recurring characters, like those who might appear in a dark and unconventional sitcom. The religious night janitor catalogues the day’s sins; the retired barmaid gussies up at the mirror; the regular customers and their regular habits are described to a new employee: “R has a two-drink limit. A likes a coaster. Remember, / Mrs. O takes a chilled pilsner glass / with her bottle of Blue.”
In the melancholy atmosphere of the bar and the rooms upstairs, the speakers of Borin’s poems find unexpected solace and belonging. The habits, the routine, the regulars, the predictability of it all brings some kind of chaotic order to chaotic life:
We drink without even having to think about it,
because it feels good
to lose control,
feels like regaining it.
About the author
Tara Borin is a graduate of the Writer’s Studio Online with Simon Fraser University. Their poems have been published in Resistance (U of R Press), PRISM International, Prairie Fire, emerge 19 (SFU Press) and Best New Poets in Canada 2018 (Quattro Books). They are a queer, non-binary writer living in traditional Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in territory, Dawson City, Yukon.
“...powerful [debut], reclaiming loneliness and regret through pervasive desire. While their speakers reveal longing and intimacies, it would be a mistake to label any vulnerability in [this collection] as weakness.”
Sanchari Sur, <i>Quill & Quire</i>
“The Pit is a stunning tribute to a time and a place. When we meet a cast of unique characters, it is through their stories that we come in contact with our own. Borin excels at painting vignettes; moments in time. A dive bar turned cinematic, each room houses a different curated world. Borin allows us to walk through ‘the hard stuff’ unscathed, yet made new. The Pit is a living portrait where the eyes haunt you long after last call.”
“Organized in five sections, The Pit is a perfectly spare 72-page book that rewards the reader as much with what isn’t there as what is. Part of this reward manifests in a desire to return to its poems and bask in their careful language, or in ambiguities and complications like those we find ourselves mired in, no matter where we are; but also to appreciate how the author did it, their exquisite combination of narrative propulsion and lyric meditation.”
Michael Turner, <i>The Ormsby Review</i>
“The Pit offers everything I could want in a dive bar and a collection of poetry: crib games, cover bands, characters, hunting tales and heartbreak. Borin’s deft hand mixes these stories with humour, wisdom, magic, deep compassion and linguistic precision. I’d drink whatever they serve, and urge you to do the same.”
“This collection writes the dive bar as a complex community, a cache for poems that rekindle complicated memories, that strike a chord, that burst into laughter, that unsettle. Borin’s poems pulse with the particular and precise rhythms of small-town life, like puffs of air in the frozen night after having ‘one for the ditch,’ wandering home with heart heavy or buoyant.”
Dina Del Bucchia